Radon Awareness and “First Test” Lending Program

Airthings Corentium 223, available on Amazon, if you want to monitor you home over weeks or even all year. Other models will talk to your smartphone. $125-200.

This is a new program and the following material will be updated as we learn our way into it. Your comments and questions will help us learn and improve. Please read this whole page before signing up to understand how it works.

The North End is not in the highest radon area on the map, but it’s close to the edge of one (north and east of us). The Radon Tester loan program helps North End residents get a first test done quickly and easily. A 48-60 hours test with one of our devices will let you know, generally, what category your house is in:

0-2: this is considered by the EPA to be safe, with no action required
2-4: at this level, the EPA recommends ventilating and follow-up monitoring (WHO says 2.7)
Over 4: contact a contractor about further testing and mitigation

Mitigation is quick (often one day), effective, and not hugely expensive.

See below for more details about radon, mitigation, testing and the test device lending program. This program was made possible by a NENA FINE grant in 2020.

About Radon in Homes

Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that comes from the breakdown of minerals in soil and rocks. It is a colorless, odorless, tasteless and invisible gas. Radon gas usually exists at very low levels outdoors; however, radon can accumulate indoors to levels that substantially increase health risks.

North End homes can have dangerously high levels of radon. The naturally occurring gas can cause lung cancer and other diseases. Testing and remediation are likely easier than you’d expect.

When one of our North End neighbors discovered very high levels of radon, we tested our home with an industry-standard Corentium detector. To our shock, our house had very high levels of radon. We had no idea our health was at risk with every breath – but we knew from our neighbor’s remediation success that our home could also be fixed.

Radon is prevalent throughout Ada County and especially in Boise’s North End. According to Idaho State Health and Welfare maps, 25% to 50% of our homes potentially have high levels of radon.

Radon can seep in from the ground and decays quickly, releasing tiny particles. As an inhaled gas, it is the leading cause of lung cancer in nonsmokers. Some research shows that a portion can pass from the lungs and into the bloodstream and can linger in the body. Some studies show potential risks to the brain, bone marrow and the nervous system, as well as links to Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.

About Radon Mitigation

The most commonly used and highly successful technique for radon removal is called “active soil depressurization.” With this technique, radon is captured under your home before it enters and is then effectively vented outside, where it is safely diluted into the atmosphere.

Mitigation costs can range from $1,500 to $3,000 or more. Every home is unique, making each mitigation system vary due to foundation type, square footage, crawl space, height of the home and even soil density underneath the foundation. The cost of running a mitigation system annually is about $35, about what it takes to power a 60W light bulb.

Is your family’s health at risk? Only an accurate radon test will tell.

About Radon Testing

Unfortunately, radon testing is not required in Idaho, nor is it a standard disclosure on home sales. Only testing can determine home radon levels. Neighborhood results are unpredictable, as one home may have low-level test results while the home next door has high-level test results.

You can conduct your own home test with discounted kits available through the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare at RadonIdaho.org. More accurate test devices are available online, or professional testing is available through a radon mitigation contractor. And now, NENA has three testing devices to lend to neighbors for a first test.

About the Test Device Lending Program

  1. Email michael@michaelherman.com to be added to the test device lending list.
  2. When it’s your turn: You will be notified that a testing device is available.
  3. When you are notified: Close up your house (see How Testing Works below), except for normal coming and going. Review the placement guidance and choose a location to test.
  4. Pick up the testing device within 36 hours of your notification. Start testing immediately (or after 12 hours as suggested). It’s very simple, just push a button and set it in place (per guidelines below). IMPORTANT: If you aren’t able to pick-up, we’ll go to the next person, but you’ll stay at the top of the list. If you miss a second pickup, you’ll start to fall back in line. We want to keep the devices active so everyone can test sooner.
  5. Run your test for 48-60 hours per location and return in not more than 7 days (or so) from when you received it. When possible, please alert us when you’re ready to return the device, so we can notify the next person on the list.

SHARE YOUR EXPERIENCE: Reporting your results to us is not required, but if your house tests safe (0-2) that would be good to hear. If you do follow-up testing with mail-in kits or with a mitigation company, it would be helpful to hear if those results are very different from what you find with our device. And if you end up mitigating because of what our device showed you, please let us know, so we can keep a tally of the testing program’s biggest impact.

How Testing Works

ESTABLISH CLOSED HOUSE CONDITIONS: Radon gas breaks down over time. For accurate readings, CLOSED HOME CONDITIONS are required 12 hours prior to beginning test. Close windows, doors and crawl space vents. Only open doors when you need to go out. Running kitchen and bath exhaust fans is okay.

DECIDE WHERE TO PUT THE DEVICE: Test lowest lived-in area of house. Locate the device as follows:

  • sitting on a flat surface
  • at least 2 feet off the floor
  • at least 1 foot from an exterior wall
  • at least 5 feet from hvac ducts, with no air blowing on device
  • not in direct sunlight and away from moisture
  • and should not be moved during the test

START YOUR TEST: Open battery door and make connection to turn on. (if it’s not already on). Use a pen or paperclip to push RESET button on back of device. The device will go through a short calibration process, then it will start flashing sets of 4 dashes, then 3, then 2, then 1. In 16-24 hours it will start showing numbers for total time (long-term, since last reset on top and last 24 hours on bottom). Leave the device untouched for a minimum of 48 hours in one location.

AFTER YOUR TEST: Let us know you’re done. Return the device ASAP. If you want to do further testing, you can put yourself back on the lending list. There might be a wait, but it can also be useful to test at different times of the year.

INVEST IN MORE TESTING? Alpha Track is a one-year test kit you send away or an electronic device like what we lend. Amazon also sells several Airthings devices like the one pictured atop this page. Or contact a mitigation contractor.

By Michael Herman and Gary Roeder. Thanks to Tim Suchla at Northwest Radon Services for his input.

See also: KTVB News Report 2018